Sometimes life takes unexpected twists. One minute, for example, you might be busy writing (read as ‘staring out of the window, wondering whether putting the kettle on again constitutes thinking time’). The next, you may get an email inviting you to rehearsals for the most amazingly surreal light show that you’ve never had the remotest capacity to imagine. I am thrilled to say that my life is just like that.
On two Arctic evenings last week, I found myself with 16 other runners, togged up in LED light suits running around Salford Quays in the snow. These were the initial rehearsals – more like live planning sessions, really – for the NVA Speed of Light event, which will take place over three nights at the end of March 2013. It’s hard to describe what it will look like but quotes from reviews might help. The words ‘stunning,’ ’beautiful’ and ‘breathtaking’ appear quite a lot. Lothian Life probably put it best though (NVA staged a similar event at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012), describing it as “An exciting melding of innovative mass participation, art and sport.”
What happens is this. At each performance, 100 runners dressed in light suits will stage a choreographed run/performance around the Quays. On the one hand, it’s large scale abstract art – imagine all that light and movement! On the other, it’s an exploration of the way the dynamic human form interacts with the built environment. Or, to put it another way, there’s lots of dramatic, bright, fizzy, whizzy stuff going on in spaces that are usually largely static. It’s going to be mind blowing…
Rehearsals so far have been based on working out how, where and when the light reflects off the canals, bridges, buildings, glass walls and the other runners. From this, the performance will be designed by the choreographer, creative director and lighting designer to develop a unique – and, I have absolutely no doubt, incredible – event.
The technology is pretty spiffy too. The suits themselves are cunningly designed with velcro strips so that they can fit anyone. The runners’ heights last week ranged from five foot nothing (me and two other shorties) to six foot four or more (one v lanky marathon runner). The LED lights that run down the sides of the suits and on the head pieces are controlled by wifi, so much of our rehearsal time was spent running in different spots to see how well the signal worked. As the lighting designer and his team experimented, there was a strange sense of unease when one of us suddenly turned yellow when everyone else was green. And if anyone’s lights went out completely it felt like a death in the family.
We ran, we froze, we ran again. We did figure of eights and flower formations. We froze a bit more. We wove in complex loops on a bridge for so long we managed to get overheated. We changed colour all evening (both the lights and our faces – blue to red and back again). We ran some more, with our headlights on and our walkie talkies crackling – or maybe that was just mine! It was brilliant.
It is, as I said, going to be truly stunning. If you want to take part as a runner, you can register here – NVA Speed of Light Runners Registration. Hurry though; it’s the hottest ticket in town by far. Over 50% of the places sold on the first day so get your name down quickly if you want to join in. I have to say that, from what I’ve seen, it will easily be one of the most awesome runs you ever do.*
*My friends know that I have a strong objection to the overuse of the word ‘awesome’. IMHO, it should only be used when something can justifiably be described as such. In this case, I think it can